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AMEX dumps WRA to the tune of $110,000 But WRA's "leave home without it" revenge angers Chamber By Chris Woodall The Whistler Chamber of Commerce isn't pleased that the Whistler Resort Association has advised its members to give the Trudeau salute to American Express. The WRA, in a memo to its members dated Dec. 8, says AMEX has withdrawn a $110,000 annual sponsorship that supports WRA marketing initiatives. "The WRA's central reservations department will now be encouraging guests to put their purchases on either their VISA or MasterCard unless the customer insists otherwise," says a letter from director of marketing Barrett Fisher. The WRA says AMEX had a "change in strategic direction regarding marketing partnerships," that convinced AMEX it no longer needed to be linked with the WRA. All credit cards charge the merchant a few percentage points on every purchase made, but AMEX’s percentage is at least two points higher than the rest. If a customer buys $100 in goods, for example, the credit card company automatically gets 3-4-or more per cent of that. For the merchant, it's like an additional tax on top of PST and GST. It's one reason that grocery stores, already working on thin margins, didn't allow credit card purchases until three years ago, when store-versus-store competition forced them into it. In years past, merchants in certain areas — Boston, Massachusetts, was a famous case — have moved to boycott AMEX to force a lower "tariff". The WRA says having the sponsorship money prompted it to "encourage all our members to accept the American Express card, despite the fact that the merchant fees were much higher than VISA or MasterCard," Fisher writes. Without AMEX hanging around, "this could ultimately mean a huge saving in commission fees to (WRA's) central reservations, offsetting the loss in marketing dollars," Fisher writes. The Chamber of Commerce isn't convinced and wants Whistler businesses to ignore the WRA's memo. "We do not and cannot support the action suggested by the (WRA) memo issued to your members," says Chamber president Ron Hosner, in a Dec. 10 letter to WRA chair Rick Clare. While sympathetic that the WRA isn't happy that AMEX has withdrawn its sponsorship money, "the only reaction should be one of expressed appreciation for the previous sponsorship," Hosner writes. The Chamber has a lot at stake because American Express has "sponsored and made possible an Employee Recognition Program for all businesses in Whistler since 1990," Hosner writes. The original agreement with the Chamber was for three years, but AMEX has stuck it out, Hosner says. "AMEX shares with us the belief that Whistler is completely dependent on the people working here and their dedication to service," Hosner writes. "In confirmation of that view, AMEX has continued its support for 1998." While the WRA may be miffed, the Chamber loves AMEX. "AMEX Canada Inc. (is) one of the best corporate friends we have," Hosner writes. "(The Chamber) deeply regrets the ill-advised memorandum issued by the WRA." The WRA, meanwhile, is going after VISA and MasterCard to see if one or the other is interested in putting up the kind of sponsorship money AMEX used to provide.

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